Three days in Marrakech are enough for everything there is to see and do in Marrakech, plus a half-day excursion. Walking through its wonderful gardens, the labyrinthine streets of its Medina, its souks and, of course, the Jamaa el Fna square, the traveler will feel totally intoxicated.
The red city is much more than its buildings and tourist sites. Above them is the atmosphere that lives in each of its streets, including those of the modern city or those of the Mellah, the old Jewish quarter. For all this, Marrakech was named a World Heritage Site in the category of cultural space.
Day 1: from Jamaa el Fna square to the medina of Marrakech
For reasons that are not relevant, the visit to Marrakech generates some uncertainty in some people. To avoid this feeling, it is advisable to take into account some safety tips in Marrakech, as well as to open your mind to the new experiences you are going to live.
In my experience, the most problematic thing you may encounter is a salesman who is too insistent or a false guide who tries to get you to hire him.
As I mentioned in my express guide to visit Marrakech in one day, a good option to visit the medina, the souk and other attractions of old Marrakech can be to hire a guided tour.
Explore the Medina
To start your visit to Marrakech there is nothing better than touring the Medina of Marrakech. This old part of the city has about 1000 years of history and is composed of a large number of streets, usually narrow, through which it is very easy to get lost.
When you are walking through these streets you can get a little overwhelmed by the large number of people in them and how easy it is to lose your sense of direction.
In addition, it is not uncommon to have to share the roadway with motorcycles and donkey carts carrying goods. Be aware if you hear "Balek" being shouted, as this is the signal to pull over to the side to let someone with a load pass.
Fortunately, the medina of Marrakech has a few places to relax. Among them is the so-called Secret Garden, an elegant palace in the center of the old city. Don't hesitate to stop here to take a breather while sipping some mint tea in the cafeteria.
Medersa (or Madrasa) Ben Youssef, another must-see in the medina
Another must-see attraction in the medina is the Medersa Ben Youssef, a former Islamic school that once had 900 students. The entrance fee is charged, but the peaceful atmosphere inside makes it worth a visit.
Those who know the Alhambra in Granada will find some similarities with this old school, especially in its courtyard decorated with a fountain in its center. It is also interesting to note the tiles on the walls, which give the whole a beauty.
Stroll and shop in the souk
Still in the medina, this first day I suggest a walk in the souk to buy some gifts. The crowds are even more crowded in these areas than in the rest of the old city and, in addition, buyers mix with sellers and the stalls where the goods are displayed. Remember that to buy you must bargain with the seller until you reach an agreement on the price!
Actually, you could say that there are several different souks, as it is clear that there are several areas depending on the type of product being sold. Thus, you will find some streets in which fabrics predominate, others in which tin products are more frequent and others in which food is offered.
Among all of them, I recommend you go through the Rahba Kedima square, the part of the souk dedicated to the sale of spices, medicinal herbs and baskets.
First visit to Jamaa el Fna
Of course, on this first day you can not miss the most iconic place of the city: the Jamaa el Fna square.
In this first visit you will see that this square represents the whole spirit of the city. Here you will see from natural fruit juice stalls to storytellers, without forgetting the jugglers or snake charmers.
Eat near the square
Around the Jamaa el Fna square you will find some restaurants where you can eat to recharge your batteries. In this way, you can get a taste of Moroccan food, although if you are really interested I recommend you to hire one of the tours dedicated to the country's gastronomy.
If, finally, you decide on one of these places, try to choose one that overlooks the square, such as Dar Cherifa. Another similar, but without views of the Jamaa el Fna, is Chez Ben Driss, where you will enjoy good traditional dishes at a reasonable price for the area.
Enter the Dar Si Said Museum
Returning to the interior of the medina, the next destination will be the Dar Si Said Museum. In addition to its collection, composed of textiles, carpets and objects belonging to the Berber culture, the building itself in which it is located stands out for its architecture.
The museum is housed in a 19th century palace and features a typical Moroccan courtyard, as well as beautifully decorated wooden doors.
The most important mosque in Marrakech is the Koutoubia ("of the booksellers" in Arabic). Unfortunately, its interior is forbidden to non-Muslims, so you have to be content to contemplate its beautiful architecture, decoration and, of course, its famous minaret.
The latter, about 70 meters high, is immediately reminiscent of the Giralda of Seville and remains the highest point of the city.
A sunset and mint tea on a terrace overlooking Jamaa el Fna
After such a busy day, the best thing to do at this point is to return to the Jamaa el Fna area and seek out some of the terraces from which to overlook the square.
Here you can have a coffee or mint tea and, at the same time, enjoy the sunset and watch the atmosphere of the square change. I recommend two of these places: Café Glacier and L'Adresse Jemaa Al Fna.
Back to Jamaa el Fna for dinner
Jamaa el Fna is transformed as the evening falls. The vendors that populate it during the day are being replaced by food stalls. It is undoubtedly a good place to have dinner at very cheap prices.
Of course, the competition among the outdoor restaurants that are installed is very high and it is not uncommon to try to attract you in a way that can be too insistent. A great tip for your trip to Marrakech is to keep calm and go for the place that catches your attention.
Day 2: excursion to the Atlas
After having squeezed the stay in Marrakech during the first day, the next day will be dedicated to an excursion to the spectacular Atlas Mountains. On the way back, you can spend some time relaxing in a hammam and recover from camel riding.
Excursion to the Atlas Mountains from Marrakech
One of the most classic excursions from Marrakech is the one that leads to the Atlas Mountains. Although you will find them with different durations, in this case I have chosen one that lasts about 6 hours to spend the afternoon in the city.
This excursion will take you to the Agafay desert and the Atlas Mountains, so you can enjoy some totally breathtaking natural scenery.
In addition, they also usually pass through several villages populated by Berbers. In them you can learn something of their way of life and their ancestral culture. The food, included in these excursions, takes place in a Berber house so you can check the differences between their gastronomy and that of Marrakech.
Enjoy bath and massage in a hammam.
After having spent the whole day in the desert, the best thing to do when returning to the city is to relax in a hammam, the traditional Arab baths.
Marrakech has a good offer of such places, although I recommend that you opt for one of those for visitors. Although the price is somewhat higher than those used by locals, they have the advantage of being mixed and provide everything you need to make the experience unforgettable.
Among the most popular is Les Bains d'Orient Marrakech, but both your guide and your hotel will recommend some more without problems.
Day 3: from the Jewish quarter to the modern area via the Saadian tombs and two palaces
The last day of your stay in Marrakech will be dedicated to some of its monuments that you have not yet visited. Some of them, such as the Saadian tombs, are really essential.
Finally, in case you have to take the plane this day, here are some tips on how to get from Marrakech to the airport.
This palace is one of the visits that no one should miss during your stay in Marrakech, the Bahia Palace. If possible, on your way to this place I recommend you to make a short stop in a beautiful and interesting square: the Place des Ferblantiers, full of stores selling tin objects.
Built in the late nineteenth century, you only have to contemplate the gardens of the palace (especially the small riad inside) and the space where the harem was located to understand the importance it had at the time.
Mellah: the place of refuge of the Jews
A short distance from the palace is the old Jewish quarter of Marrakech. Its construction dates back to the 16th century, when groups of Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal found refuge in this city.
The neighborhood, although already with a sparse Jewish population, maintains an essence that differentiates it from the medina. Its narrow streets hide some really interesting corners, although I recommend you to visit the Jewish cemetery and the Salat Alzama synagogue.
To reach these spectacular tombs, it is best to do it from outside the walls and enter through Bab Agnaou, the door that led from outside the city to the royal kasbah.
The tombs, built by order of Sultan Al Mansur in the late 16th century, were forgotten for centuries after being walled up by a later sultan. After being rediscovered in 1917, they have become one of the main treasures of the city.
The entire architecture of the complex stands out for its careful design. In its first courtyard are the tombs of secondary characters, such as warriors or servants. In one of the buildings surrounding this courtyard is the most spectacular part of the complex, the so-called Hall of the 12 Columns. It is in this room where the remains of Al Mansur himself rest.
El Badi Palace
Near the tombs and right next to the Royal Palace are the remains of the El Badi Palace. Unfortunately, most of it is in ruins, but it is still worth strolling through its orange garden and surviving ponds.
Moreover, from the remains of its ramparts you will be able to contemplate some of the best views of the city.
Lunch at the Kif Kif Café
To almost say goodbye to Moroccan food, the area from the El Badi Palace to the next destination is well supplied with good restaurants in Marrakech.
You are probably already an expert in moving around Marrakech, so getting to one of them, the Café Kif Kif, should not be a problem. This place stands out for its tajine dishes. In addition to good prices, from its terrace you can have excellent views of the Koutoubia Mosque.
Museum of Marrakech and Almoravid Qoubba
Heading back towards the center of the medina there are still two short interesting stops before reaching the modern part of the city.
In the first of these stops, the Museum of Marrakech, I recommend that you just stop to look at its wonderful central courtyard, with a beauty that makes it highly recommended.
Nearby is the Almoravid Quobba, a domed building that is the last example of architecture of that era in the city. It is particularly interesting inside, where there is a souk called Souk Foudouq Ouarzazi.
The last hours of the stay in Marrakech will be devoted to a couple of areas that are outside the center. The first is the extensive Menara Gardens, the largest in the city.
These gardens, which have eight centuries of history, are a veritable oasis in the middle of Marrakech. In fact, it is a very popular visit for locals looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city streets.
Dining in the modern area
Depending on the time you have, a good idea to end your trip may be to walk to the nearby modern area of Marrakech, the so-called Gueliz district,
This area was built by the French during the protectorate and has in the 16th November square its nerve center. From this square depart several avenues with a very different atmosphere than you can find in the old city.
You can take the opportunity to have dinner in Gueliz, as it is full of restaurants both traditional Moroccan food and Western style.